The printing arm of Allied Group, Progress Press Company Limited, has filed judicial protests in Court against former chief of staff to the Prime Minister Keith Schembri and two of its former managing directors after discovering from criminal proceedings against them that it was deprived of around $5 million when it purchased printing machinery in 2008, the company said in a statement.
The Company maintained in its statement that Keith Schembri, Adrian Hillman, Vincent Buhagiar, Malcolm Scerri, Alfio Schembri and Kasco Engineering pocketed a total of $5 million from a $13.5 million deal that was approved in good faith by the board of directors which was presented with the relevant bids by the then chairman and managing director.
From evidence presented in Court, the Company said that it now understands that it was the victim of “an illicit, secretive and abusive side deal that took place behind the backs of the Company’s directors for the personal benefit of Keith Schembri and its two former managing directors.”
The Company said that it is seeking compensation for this incidence of corruption – which has caused significant pecuniary harm to Progress Press and Allied Newspapers, publisher of the Times of Malta – and looks forward to justice being served against the real perpetrators of crimes committed against the Group.
The statement refers to a case which is currently in court, with proceedings open against 11 individuals from Kasco Engineering – the company of former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri, Nexia BT – the audit firm of Panama Papers fame, Zenith Finance – formerly known as MFSP and the people who managed the money of the other accused, and Allied Group itself – through two of its former managing directors in Adrian Hillman and Vincent Buhagiar.
A court has heard how Progress Press – which is fully owned by Allied Group, which also runs the Times of Malta and the Sunday Times of Malta – ended up paying $6.5 million extra for printing machines with the money shared between Keith Schembri, Malcolm Scerri and Allied Group directors Adrian Hillman and Vince Buhagiar.
Schembri has been charged with corruption and money laundering, while other prominent people charged such as Nexia BT’s Brian Tonna and Karl Cini have also been charged with money laundering by the police. Extradition proceedings to get Adrian Hillman to Malta from the UK to face charges are also underway.
A further two Allied Group officials – current managing director Michel Rizzo and their former financial controller Claude Licari – were charged in connection with a magisterial inquiry related to a Malta Enterprise grant to Progress Press. They were accused of money laundering and fraud.
All the individuals charged by police have pleaded not guilty.